Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency has denied “baseless” allegations that it was involved in the murder of a journalist who wrote about links between rogue navy officials and Al-Qaeda.
Saleem Shahzad , who worked for an Italian news agency and a Hong Kong-registered news site, went missing en route to a television talk show and his body was identified Tuesday south of the capital, bearing marks of torture.
A senior South Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch , Ali Dayan Hasan, said that the 40-year-old had recently complained of threats from the ISI, adding: “In the past the ISI has been involved in similar incidents.”
“It is regrettable that some sections of the media have taken upon themselves to use the incident for targeting and maligning the ISI,” an intelligence official was quoted as saying by state media overnight.
“Baseless accusations against the country’s sensitive agencies for their alleged involvement in Shahzad’s murder are totally unfounded.”
“In the absence of any evidence and when an investigation is still pending, such allegations (are) tantamount to unprofessional conduct on the part of the media,” the official added.
The ISI official said Shahzad’s “unfortunate and tragic” death was a “source of concern for the entire nation” but “should not be used to target and malign the country’s security agencies”.
Shahzad disappeared two days after writing an investigative report in Asia Times Online saying Al-Qaeda carried out a recent attack on a naval air base to avenge the arrest of naval officials arrested on suspicion of Al-Qaeda links.
The intelligence official confirmed that the ISI had met Shahzad last October to discuss a story, but said there was “nothing sinister about it”.
The government has ordered an inquiry into the kidnapping and murder, pledging that the culprits would be brought to justice, but angry journalists say past investigations into killings of journalists have come to nothing.
In 2006, Shahzad was kidnapped by the Taliban in southern Afghanistan and accused of being a spy before being released seven days later.